Tel Aviv, 11th Oct 2023: In a swift operation, the Israeli police, alongside the Blade 433 cyber unit, the National Counterterrorism Headquarters, the Israel Securities Authority, and various intelligence bodies, have successfully frozen multiple cryptocurrency accounts linked to Hamas. This action followed the militant group’s surprise attack over the weekend.
Suspicions arose when Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the United Nations, launched a fundraising campaign on social media platforms following the outbreak of war. Encouraging the public to deposit cryptocurrencies into their accounts, Hamas aimed to amass financial support for their activities.
Recognizing the urgency, the Police Cyber Unit and Ministry of Defense swiftly mobilized to locate and freeze the identified accounts. In an unprecedented move, the collaboration with Binance, a prominent crypto exchange, aided in freezing the accounts and diverting the funds to the state treasury.
Yi He, one of the co-founders of Binance, reaffirmed the exchange’s role in assisting Israeli authorities to curb terrorist financing. Noting that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, he emphasized that cooperation from all entities, including banks and trading platforms, is vital in complying with freeze requests. He explicitly clarified that the freeze focused solely on Hamas and not Palestine as a whole, differentiating the local militant group from the organized government of Palestine.
Crypto Donations to Hamas and Allied Groups Under Scrutiny
A review of Israeli government seizure orders and blockchain analytics reports revealed startling figures regarding crypto donations to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. In the year leading up to the attack, Hamas alone received $41 million in crypto donations, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah collectively obtained $93 million.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized the ever-increasing complexity of combating terrorist financing, especially with the surge in digital currency usage. Acknowledging the challenges, he recognized the importance of concerted efforts to address this issue effectively.
In an effort to thwart the activities of the Islamic State and hinder their goals, the Israel National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) requested the seizure of any crypto held in 67 client accounts at Binance. This request followed their earlier confiscation of two Binance accounts and their contents, aiming to impair the Islamic State’s ability to advance their objectives.
Hamas began publicly accepting crypto donations in 2019, affirming the importance of financial resources in supporting their efforts. However, due to heightened concerns surrounding donor safety and heightened surveillance by Israeli and U.S. investigators, Hamas ceased receiving Bitcoin donations in April. Instead, they turned to payment processors with embedded crypto addresses on their fundraising pages to protect the anonymity of their donors.
Among the various cryptocurrencies used, Hamas displayed a preference for the stablecoin Tether (USDT). This choice is attributed to its pegging to the U.S. dollar and its relative stability compared to other volatile digital currencies.
The Israeli police’s efficient collaboration with Binance in freezing Hamas cryptocurrency accounts demonstrates both their determination to combat terrorism financing and the crucial role that legitimate financial institutions play in this endeavor. By targeting and neutralizing the financial networks of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, these joint efforts pave the way for enhanced security and stability in the region.